The pandemic has changed the way a lot of things are looked at — including weddings. With the price of weddings growing increasingly expensive, the option to elope becomes the most budget friendly. Emma Thurgood, owner of Emma Thurgood Weddings, challenges the idea of elopements and micro weddings to personalize it to the couple themselves. I met Emma when I was beginning to plan my own wedding, and I knew I wanted to bring her to the Nutmeg Millennial. So, read on to learn all about the many hats Emma wears.
1. Tell Me about yourself. What made you want to be a photographer?
I have been an artist since a time before I can remember, so I always knew that visual art was going to be my profession. I achieved my BFA in painting and my MFA in studio art before becoming a curator for arts non-profit organizations. It was while I was in grad school that I got into photography, though it wasn’t my main artistic medium. I continued it for years as a hobby and photographed a few weddings for friends and worked a bit for a friend of mine who was a wedding photographer. When I was ready to leave gallery life, becoming a professional photographer was the natural choice.
2. Tell me about Emma Thurgood Weddings? What exactly is your role, and what services do you provide?
I’m an elopement and intimate wedding photographer + planner. I primarily work with clients who want to have a wedding day with less than 20 people, though I will take on weddings with guest counts up to 100 people. My main service is as a documentary photographer, but I also provide a lot of hands-on assistance in the planning process. Each one of my clients get access to my vendor guide, full of recommendations of top notch vendors for the day. I’m always available to provide insight and answer questions for my couples when they want my opinion on something they’re considering for the day. All of my clients get detailed timelines and, where necessary, portrait lists created for their day so that I can be super organized and efficient on the day. For elopement clients, I provide customized and detailed location lists, timeline options and activities ideas.
3. What, in your opinion, makes micro weddings and elopements so special?
Hands down, it’s the intimacy, experience and personalization that these kinds of weddings offer. When you have a smaller guest count, your options of what you can do for the day just open up. As you add more people the locations, activities, and budget options all become more limited and more homogenous. Smaller weddings allow couples to really experience their day instead of being rushed through it. The average reception is 5 hours long. If you have 150 guests that’s only two minutes to talk with each guest and that doesn’t even account for time to eat, formalities, or to hit the dance floor. Smaller weddings also allow couples to spend their budget on things that they value instead of on the venue, food and drinks for 100+ people. The average wedding in New England is about $40,000. You can spend $20,000 on venue, food and drinks for 100 people and still not be done spending… or you could spend $15,000 on an epic adventure getaway with 20 people and still be spending less than a large wedding after all your other wedding expenses.
4. How long does it take to plan a micro wedding or an elopement?
A very simple wedding can be planned in less than a month. You can even plan an epic adventure elopement for just the two of you and a few guests in three months. A micro-wedding with more than 10 guests is a tall order for anything less than 6 months. Some couples who really want a luxury experience start planning a year out in order to budget for all the things that they want.
5. Where do you draw inspiration for the weddings for your clientele?
I love being in nature, and my clients do, too! So together my clients and I talk about why they love being in nature, what their favorite kinds of outdoor activities and adventures are and we start brainstorming from there. For me, it’s really important that I’m facilitating the vision of my clients, not imposing my own vision onto them. I try really hard not to photograph the same wedding twice, and following my clients lead helps prevent that.
6. What is YOUR dream wedding, if you have one?
I would love to be part of a backpacking elopement weekend. Hiking up to a location, having the ceremony with fabulous views at sunset, camping under the stars and then hiking back down and perhaps celebrating with family during the afternoon of the second day.
7. What is your advice for those who are considering an elopement or micro wedding, but are nervous based on reception?
Life is too short to plan the wedding of someone else’s dreams. You should feel completely comfortable and true to yourself on your wedding day. You are under no obligation to invite anyone (not even your mom) and anyone who makes you feel bad about that is having an issue with their own insecurities. I’ve talked to too many people who have wedding regrets from listening to other people’s ideas of what to do for a wedding. Don’t let yourself feel that way about yours.
8. Where can people find you?
Instagram, Facebook & Pinterest: @emmathurgoodweddings
A lot of people decide that they want to go with a micro-wedding or elopement to save money. However, I think a lot of people’s expectations are misled or uninformed. Yes, an elopement or micro-wedding can cost less than the average 100 guest wedding. However, you will be hard pressed to be able to spend less than $10,000 on a bespoke experience that isn’t just heading to your local park. There’s your attire, lodging, photographer, flowers and decor, dining expenses, etc. A lot of the expenses you have for an elopement or micro-wedding are the same amount as if you hired them for a 100+ person wedding because they are not based on the guest count. Elopement photographers in particular tend to be more expensive because we are more involved in the planning process than when you have a venue that comes with a coordinator to lean on. I have a whole blog post about elopement budgets with real breakdowns, which is where you can really see the way that an elopement can vary wildly in how much of the budget gets spent where even when the total costs are about the same.